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Air New Zealand, the country’s national aircraft carrier, is facing criticism over its decision to file a trademark application for a logo with the phrase ‘Kia Ora’, a Māori-language greeting.
The New Zealand Māori Council has said threatened to campaign for a boycott of the airline if it does not back down from the trademark application.
The application was initially filed in May this year, but after coming to public attention in recent days has provoked angry reactions from Māori cultural representatives.
Matthew Tukaki, chief executive of the Māori Council, said in a statement: "Our language is a national treasure for all of us and we need to respect it. It's not here for business to use it and profit from it as they see fit. So let’s all get sensible about this and Air NZ—cut it out.”
Air New Zealand says that the trademark application is only intended to protect the logo for its in-flight magazine of the same name.
The trademark application covers magazines, including inflight magazines, and magazine distribution in classes 16 and 41.
According to local news network TVNZ, Rebecca James, trademarks manager at the IP office of New Zealand (IPONZ), said that Air New Zealand was only seeking to protect “particular stylised forms” of the phrase, rather than establish a monopoly on the words themselves.
James said that any trademark applications containing Māori words or imagery are referred to a Trademarks Māori Advisory Committee for guidance on whether the mark is likely to cause offence, according to the report.
If a mark is likely to cause offence to a “significant section of the community”, then it may not be registered under New Zealand law, she added.
There are currently 19 registered trademarks or pending applications containing the phrase ‘kia ora’, according to the IPONZ website.
Last month, WIPR reported that IP Australia had began a consultation process on the protection of indigenous knowledge.
One of the proposals included for debate in the report was a ban on registering “offensive” marks.
“Many non-indigenous people are not aware of the cultural protocols surrounding the ownership and use of indigenous knowledge or the offence caused by misappropriation,” an IP Australia report said.
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Māori, Kia Ora, Air New Zealand, IPONZ, Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, Māori Council, Matthew Tukaki, IP Australia, indigenous